The afternoon examinations of Mr. Colvin went into overtime today, extending another 40 minutes or so beyond the scheduled close of session.
Of particular interest were the issues relating to the redactions of Mr. Colvin’s reports. Throughout the afternoon’s examination, Mr. Colvin was asked to comment on heavily blacked-out materials in exchanges which at times bordered on the farcical. We also saw in evidence multiple versions of substantively identical documents, though with differing levels of redactions. This, of course, puts paid to the notion that national security redactions are anything akin to a precise science. It also suggests that redactions are applied a little too freely, and used to cover up information that may merely be embarassing for the government, but doesn’t involve national security secrecy, per se.
A good example of this came up during BCCLA Litigation Director Grace Pastine’s examination of Mr. Colvin. In comparing two versions of the same document provided to the MPCC, Grace pointed out that the more heavily-redacted version of the report removes the length of time the detainee was beaten, as well as the fact that he was forced to stand. These details are relevant to the Commission’s determination of whether the MP’s duty to investigate was triggered. In one version of the document provided to the Commission, these important details are omitted. Moreover, seeing what is behind the redaction (important information, but not anything that looks to impinge on national security interests) leaves us wondering on what basis the government claims privilege and secrecy.
Mr. Colvin, for his part, suggested that he has no issues with the Commission having access to the unredacted versions of his documents, since, as he pointed out, the government’s redactions “have made my content somewhat incoherent.” Alain Prefontaine, for the Department of Justice, perhaps unsurprisingly took the fallback position of national security privilege.
CBC has video of Colvin’s testimony, along with commentary.
This is Part 2 of our Richard Colvin coverage. Part 1 is also available.
Up tomorrow: Nicholas Gosselin, a human rights officer with DFAIT stationed in Kandahar, and Gabrielle Duschner, a Political Advisor to CEFCOM.